Narrated by American actor Tom Selleck, the Discovery Channel’s captivating new series ‘North America’ is due to air on May 19th, promising spectacular, never-before-seen footage of one of the world’s most diverse landscapes. To show our excitement, we’ve put together a list of our top ten North American species.
1. Wood frog
This widely distributed frog has a range that extends further north than any other North American amphibian. Often identified by a black mask that extends from the nostrils across each cheek and through each eye, this species is an explosive breeder, laying all its eggs in a matter of days. The wood frog is often found in or around damp woodland.
2. Brown bear
Just one of North America’s most iconic species, the brown bear is also one of the largest carnivores on Earth. The largest subspecies of this bear is known as the Kodiak bear, and it can weigh up to 780 kilograms! During hibernation, the brown bear can survive for over half a year without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating.
3. Grey wolf
The grey wolf has a wide variety of coat colours, ranging from grey, red, brown and black to practically pure white. Its long legs and sensitive ears and nose make it a highly efficient and deadly predator, able to pursue its prey for extremely long distances. The grey wolf is a highly social and intelligent animal, hunting cooperatively to bring down prey that is ten times its size.
4. Bighorn sheep
The spiralling horns of a male bighorn sheep can grow to over a metre long and weigh up to 14 kilograms. Unlike that of most sheep, this species’ coat is made up of fur rather than wool. The nimble-footed bighorn sheep is able to bound between rocks, and up or down almost vertical rock faces, a skill that often enables it to escape predators. Its mating period is known as a rut, during which time males will take part in impressive battles for dominance and the chance to mate with females.
5. Mountain lion
Also known as the puma, panther or cougar, the mountain lion has the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Active at dawn and dusk, but rarely during the day, this agile species feeds mainly on hoofed mammals such as elk and domestic cattle. Although adult mountain lions are the same colour all over, kittens are born with a spotted coat and blue eyes.
Despite belonging to the weasel family, the wolverine has an almost bear-like appearance. With a reputation for being a particularly aggressive animal, this species is powerfully built and well adapted to survive in wintery conditions. The wolverine’s coat has two types of fur: soft, dense underhair that helps to insulate its body against the cold, and coarse, long, protective guard hair.
7. Giant sequoia
Believed to be the largest living thing on the planet, the giant sequoia tree does not reach maturity and produce any cones for around 20 years. This tree generally benefits from wildfires, which remove competitors and ensure that the soil is rich enough for seed germination. The heat from the fires also causes the tree’s cones to open by drying them out, allowing the seeds to fall and germinate. The giant sequoia is more or less indestructible due to its size and thick bark, which conducts fire poorly.
Growing antlers that can span over 1.8 metres, the moose is the largest of all deer species. Only males grow antlers, which are shed during the winter and are re-grown over the summer. Due to its impressive height (1.5 to 2 metres), this species has difficulty feeding from the ground, instead browsing on higher grasses and shrubs. The shape of its hooves enables this large, heavy animal to walk on soft snow and muddy ground, much like snowshoes work for humans.
9. California condor
With a huge wingspan of almost three metres, the California condor was worryingly declared Extinct in the Wild in 1987 when the last eight birds were taken into captivity. Following an intensive captive breeding programme, the first condors were released into the wild in 1992. Conservation of the California condor is ongoing and the population is continuing to increase, with the success of the programme being an inspiration to many.
10. Bald eagle
As the national emblem of the United States, the majestic bald eagle is instantly recognisable. Believed to pair for life, mating pairs reinforce their bond by taking part in magnificent acrobatic displays in the air. When juvenile bald eagles, or eaglets, are about four months old, they often appear to be larger than their parents because their wing feathers are longer at this age. These flight feathers act as stabilisers when a juvenile bird is learning to fly.
Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author